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Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice!
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About the item

“I was very excited about, and interested in, the highly emotional content yet detached, impersonal handling of love, hate, war, etc., in those cartoon images.” (The artist cited in an interview with John Coplans, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 52) “This is how men dream and how they speak of their dreams. Love, glory, victory, force, comfort, art, travel, objects—such are the dreams that are unfolded in the papers and these dreams speak.” (Otto Hahn, ‘Roy Lichtenstein’ in John Coplans, ed., Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1972, p. 143)\n\nA breathtaking expression of beauty characteristic of Lichtenstein’s beloved Pop vernacular, Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice! is an irresistible master-class in the art of allure. Here, Lichtenstein presents a portrait of the painter’s archetypal blonde, framed by a man whose back is turned to the viewer. Flanked between the edges of a doorway and the contours of the man’s face who blocks her exit, Vicki conveys sensational emotion and possesses an extraordinary allure in her radiant blonde locks, sumptuous red lips, and enigmatic facial expression. Punctuated by the artist’s favored exclamatory speech bubble, Lichtenstein’s bold enamel work expresses emotion through both text and riveting body language, underlining the extraordinary efficacy of the image. We are allowed visual access to the woman, yet held from full view by the intermediary of the male speaker, locking the viewer in a consistently enticing interplay and tension between attraction and irrevocable distance. Close comparison with the two source images for Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice! reveals the remarkable significance of Lichtenstein's subtle yet critical editing process. Lichtenstein composited the two readymade frames from a comic strip, making a number of crucial adjustments to alter not only the composition, but also to transform fundamentally the character of his portrait and the emotional import of the image. Not only does the cartoon heroine convey despair as she furrows her eyebrows toward the male visitor at her door, but her pursed lips are frozen as if she is about to respond to the man’s exclamation, suspended forever in mid-thought and allowing the viewer to interpret the next frame. Moreover, her open mouth and sorrowful eyes entrance the male with her beguiling temptations. Intriguing and mysterious, she demands our attention and seduces our gaze, ultimately becoming the consummate muse of both artist and viewer. Physically trapped by the anonymous male holding the doorway, Lichtenstein seemingly articulates the media’s objectification of women through the confining male gaze. As Diane Waldman noted, "In isolating the female figure from her original context, Lichtenstein further magnifies society's codification of women as ornaments, positioned for the male gaze only." (Diane Waldman in Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (and travelling), Roy Lichtenstein, 1993-1994, p. 117)\nLichtenstein's Girls stand as undisputed icons of Post-War American art. Few pictures, either by Lichtenstein or any of his contemporaries, subvert the heroic ideals of modern abstract painting as directly and successfully. Conceptually, they continue to fuel one of the most contentious theoretical dialogues in contemporary art: what constitutes "high" versus "low" culture; that is, what is the distinction between the fine art destined for museums as opposed to commercial advertising and media imagery that pervades our daily lives. The dream of being the blonde heroine from the present work, or of winning Vicki’s heart, drove entire industries and billions of sales. Alfred Hitchcock populated his classic movie thrillers with a cast of divine blonde actresses - Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, and Kim Novak - who played the part of independent, sassy protagonists before invariably being rescued by Cary Grant or James Stewart. Regarding the artist's Girls series, his wife Dorothy Lichtenstein has said: "I think that he was portraying his idea of the dream girl." (Dorothy Lichtenstein in conversation with Jeff Koons in Exh. Cat, New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Girls, 2008, p. 15)  For the viewer, the compelling attraction of Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice! certainly also belongs to the world of dreams. Informed by the irrational hope inspired by cinematic fantasy and comic book fiction, her character triggers an inexplicably emotional reaction. The sharp, simplified clarity of the composition of Vicki! I -- I Thought I Heard Your Voice!, as well as its flattened and foreshortened perspectival space, recall modes of consumer advertising, while strengthening formal principles and pictorial conventions native to early Modernism. Moreover, Lichtenstein's eponymous Ben-Day dots are perfectly regimented to create a kinetic dynamism that in turn invests a powerful sense of tension in the gestural motion of the man’s hand on the door-frame, perfectly encircling the woman’s tilted head.\nLichtenstein instinctively understood the phenomenal potential of popular imagery, and more than any artist of his generation realigned the cipher of that imagery to unveil verities behind the ever-proliferating pictorial panorama of culture in 1960s America. With his enamel on steel paintings, Lichtenstein harnessed the undercurrent of mass reproduction central to his comic book works by utilizing their very modes of mechanical production. By so doing he revolutionized how we perceive the world around us and how, in turn, the world has subsequently been presented back unto itself. Rendering the present work on an enamel plate, Lichtenstein was inspired by the industrial signage of the city, adding a further layer of complexity to the ready-made nature of his image. As explained by Diane Waldman: “With enamel, Lichtenstein accomplished two objectives: he reinforced the look of mechanical perfection that paint could only simulate but not duplicate and it provided the perfect opportunity to make an ephemeral form concrete.” (Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, p. 23) Where his great art historical counterpart Andy Warhol directly appropriated quotidian images to force issues of perception through the simple act of re-presentation, Lichtenstein's genius lay in a more subtle yet equally radical transformation. Having mastered the primary modus of industrial pictographic transmission, by almost covert means he enlisted this mass-media vocabulary to present alternate perspectives onto ideal realities. Through this methodology he shone a brilliant light on the artifice of our image-saturated society, and yet, simultaneously, he also brought his paintings closer to a veritable authenticity, for the terms of their manufacture are laid entirely bare to the viewer.\nSigned, dated 1964 and numbered 4/8 on the reverse
US
NY, US
US

medium

Porcelain enamel on steel

creator

Roy Lichtenstein

dimensions

42 x 42 in. 106.7 x 106.7 cm.

exhibition

Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Roy Lichtenstein, June - September 1973, cat no. 5, illustrated in color (edition no. unknown) Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Gunter Sachs - Große: von Kunst, Kult und Charisma, August - September 2003 (the present work) Leipzig, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Gunter Sachs: Die Kunst ist Weiblich, March - June 2008, p. 56, illustrated in color (the present work) Moscow, Museum Tsaritsyno, Gunter Sachs, 2009 (the present work) Munich, Museum Villa Stuck, Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs, October 2012 - January 2013, cat. no. 089, illustrated in color (the present work) Schweinfurt, Kunsthalle Schweinfurt, Die Sammlung Gunter Sachs, November 2013 - March 2014, cat. no. 089, illustrated in color (the present work)

literature

Robert Rosenblum, "Pop and Non-Pop: An Essay in Distinction," Canadian Art 23, January 1966, no. 1, p. 53, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Alberto Boatto and Giordano Falzoni, eds., Lichtenstein, Rome, 1966, published in Fantazaria I, no. 2, July - August 1966, p. 75, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Phyllis Tuchman, "American Art in Germany: The History of Phenomenon," Artforum, vol. 9, no. 3, November 1970, p. 63, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Diane Waldman, Roy Lichtenstein, New York, 1971, p. 113, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Yusuke Nakahara, ed., "Man-Made Nature," Art Now, vol. 5, Tokyo, 1971, p. 119, illustrated (edition no. unknown) Michael Lobel, Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art, New Haven and London, 2002, fig. 83, p. 134, illustrated in color and pp. 132, 133, 136, 138, 139, 154 and 156 (text) (edition no. unknown) Exh. Cat., Cologne, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Roy Lichtenstein: Classic of the New, 2005, p. 103, illustrated in color (another example) Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Lichtenstein: Girls, 2008, p. 59, illustrated in color (another example)

provenance

Private Collection Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 1969) The Estate of Gunter Sachs, Switzerland (by descent from the above) Acquired by the present owner from the above 

signedDate

Signed, dated 1964 and numbered 4/8 on the reverse

creator_nationality_dates

1923 - 1997


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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